Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Modern Horror with 0e DnD or derivatives

Why DnD for a modern horror-ish game?

I want weird dangerous stuff to be 'scary' because it's weird or dangerous. I don't want to to be scary because your Hype Meter ticked up. I want a dude to be scary because you saw him take 3 pistol shots to his t-shirt covered chest and a little grease came out of the wounds and he seems fine.

open source image from wikimedia commons, photomosh'd by me

Why 0e DnD? 

It's really cool. 0e is not a complete system unto itself. People make hacks of it. It doesn't proscribe how to run a game or whether your PC can be 'trained in forest navigation.' 

What else tho

I kind of want to eschew hp progression, or at least the idea that you go from level 1 to level 9 and suddenly no one with a knife is a threat.

I love system/setting things like Troika, and there are some cool modern urban fantasy-ish hacks, but I don't really want the PCs to start out as supernatural weirdos. If you have a half-vampire as a PC then half-vampires aren't scary or different or horrors. If you get bit and fail a save and turn into one during play, that's fine.

I've categorized these games by big obvious things in their dice-rolling mechanics because I care deeply about things that actually don't matter. 

d20 roll high or die

Luke's rules. These are good, really close to 0e but clearly their own thing, but largely compatible with things like hit dice, saving throws, to-hit, armor class. No classes, magic is _dangerous_. Only 3 stats: str, dex, con. 3 saves: warding, dodge, physique. Some progression but can just do it via 'heroic boasting' in another post of Luke's. The closest to normal-ass 0e DnD on the list so far.

Dungeon Gig. 1 stat which is your HP, also is what you add to a d20 roll when your background or skills apply. Also the damage you deal and inventory slots. Starts between 1 and 6. HD compatible, map to 1 thru 10. Open license. LATAM creator. Solo rules, plans for expansions. Learning a spell decreases your stat by 1 permanently, have to spend health temporarily to cast. Roll d20 only, roll high.

(Un)Level. 3d6 in order stats, no indication what they're for, you get saving throws, you are level 3 forever, you get 3dx HP + the length of one of the words you used to describe your class/background. This is very cool in its brevity. Things aren't dictated or even hinted at. I'd steal a lot of stuff from Delving Deeper and Liminal Horror and run this like a stolen car.

DURF. 3 stats (Str, Dex, Willpower) 1-3 at start, HD compatible, no HP, you roll HD with every wound and if you don't roll over your current number of wounds with any hit dice, you die. Hit dice are all 1d6. So a neat way to let HD grow without PCs becoming a giant mass of MEAT POINTS. Casting spells causes 'Stress' which takes up inventory slots. Can also take stress to take advantage on a roll. 

Delving Deeper. It's a 0e retroclone. I'll at least use it for reference. It's got the 0e monster manual and all the ship-combat rules you'll ever need.

Sometimes over sometimes under

Simple DeeEnDee has some roll-under stats and some roll over to fights. It is awesome because it is super easy to add classes to (Evey added in a pegasus, catgirl, and amoeba that rock) and because the ACs are _lower_ so that you hit moar and the damage is _higher_ so, yeah. DeeEnDee: Fuck around and find out edition. I love it. 

d20-roll under

Bastards. Roll-d20-under-stats, 3 stats (str, dex, wisdom). Luck is a stat, roll d20 under, reduce luck by 1, restored in the mornings. Use as a Save. Roll under but above opponent's HD if, say, trying to sneak past the Lich or cast a spell on it. Gain 1d6 hp every other level. Enemies get a to-hit roll in a fight (roll under 10+HD), a nice change from some other roll-under-stat systems. The stuff with opponents HD and the sort of roll-above-and-below is brilliant and understated. It makes it harder to sneak up on a lich than a goblin because, you know, fuckin liches suck.

A Dragon Game. Roll d20 under-but-as-close-as-possible-to-stat, HD compatible, fighting is _super_ deadly. Learning magic degrades your stats or HP. There are some enemy hd/HP adjustments to make because the d20 roll is also the damage roll, if your attack hits. Players roll only, attack and defense separately. Perhaps closest to a straight-up horror game. Progression is milestone-ish, and you either increase HP by 1d6 or try to increase a stat, which has a 5% of gaining HP. Open license. Getting attacked is hella lethal, perhaps the lethalist. Has a cool supplement to make dying instantly less common but your character gets eroded away by violence.

17th Century Minimalist. Roll under, no real magic for the starting PCs. HP is hard limited, as is non-magical damage. Classes would probably need some reworking to fit in ze modern era. 

Chainmail just used d6s right?

Murdersoup Tales of High Adventure. 2d6 game, not HD compatible but has ideas for HP for normal folks (1d6), adventurers (2d6) and monsters (go wild). Damage follows a similar trend. HP growth through hitting 0 HP and not dying. Cool stats in Murdersoup Heavy Metal Adventures - basically the Apocalypse World ones, you roll to see which one you're best at. Some cool ideas, generally roll and try to beat a 7 to 9+, ToHA has very minimal addition rules for rolls (+1 to ranged attacks for good dex, that sort of thing). 

0E in space is Traveller, Traveller is 0E DnD I DON"T MAKE THE SCIENCE RULES

So You Want to Be an Adventurer? It's another '2d6 game' to classify it in a way that probably would make Jared feel I've missed the point entirely. But it's cool because you're trying to hit 8+ on 2d6, things like skills or gear each give a +1, things like being concussed or hurt or in a bad spot give a -1, and Something Is Always Happening. You don't just fail to pick a lock, you set off a burglar alarm. I'd make it so if you roll low doubles (1,1) you encounter A Horror, if you roll something like a 3,3 you see the Sam Raimi-style rushing camera of a Horror doing something. What's So Cool About Horror Psychic Fragments or the like.

Advanced Fighting Fantasy Was 0E for the UK

Troika. Evey wrote a cool horror game for it - zombies that do GIGANTIC BEAST damage are gonna rip off your goddamn face. Look it up it rules.

Was Warhammer 0e? (YES)

Sledgehammer. d100 based, wounds and corruption, not 0e-compatible or trying to be, but has a very cool Warhammer 0,000 vibe. 4 stats: fight, speed, fellowship, toughness. Stats are low, only players roll, failing a to-hit roll means the monster hits. Not HD compatible, monsters have two stats (damage and health). MA Guax is making a modern hack (Freaks on a Leash) and put out some stuff on his twitter about a deprecated/lost modern hack (Slickhammer) which both ROCK. Open license. I feel like the limited number of stats gets this away from 'roll under Int/Wis/Cha/Str/Dex/Con' like I see with some things, and you get some neat room for rulings that way.

But also Cairn hacks

Liminal Horror. Open license. Roll d20 under stats, damage per Cairn, not HD compatible but lots of monsters already converted for Cairn. Has a cool mystery generation tool. Really the coolest leveling-up system ever. Advancements take up inventory slots forever, and indicate that your character is also changing, forever altered, by encountering horrors.

But Also Pulp Mothership

Instead of Stress, you gain Adrenaline, which you can use to hulk out. I wrote it up here, just ignore the Strength/Toil thing, I dunno. 

Dreamy Appendix N

Somninauts inspired me to put together a half-completed list of dream games. As in, games about dreams. Some are also about being dead because, hey, in death what dreams may come. 

Also I have an itch.io list of dream and death games, also incomplete.

 In no particular order

  • Paprika. The dream-world and the real world collide. Two women, each aspects of each other. A man spreads his filthy dead roots and would strangle the world. A cinemaphile deals with his past and present. A really big dude picks locks and takes responsibility by turning into a giant robot that Paprika gets inside and turns into a giant baby.
  • Piotr Jabłoński
  • Daniel Isn't Real. It's horror and it's like a pretty bad example of mental illness, or maybe it just features the worst psychologist ever. When your shrink shows up to get you to unleash your inner demon and has a ceremonial dagger you need a new person. More horror-y but still quite nice.
  • Marc Rebillet. This guy is a wonderful musician and I love him. He sings about being a flamingo and makes it both danceable and terrifying. That flamingo is your nemesis.
  • Watching mushrooms grow.
  • Mandy. Nic Cage takes Hell cocaine and sees shit. Mandy is badass. We start in reality and (spoilers) end up somewhere else entirely. 
  • Lisa Bella Donna playing a synth.
  • Stuff from Killer7. H E L L O. M R S M I T H.
  • Dr Casper from Control. This is some decent worldbuilding by way of informative videos he makes in-universe, for new employees / civil servants / prisoners of the Bureau of Control.
  • The Frank Book. No dialogue. Adventures in an interesting way - it seems like most of the book Frank is just dealing with the strange encounters of keeping his home in one piece. A plant picked grows rapidly and attacks. ManPig is killed and lives again and again. Smirk smiles his creepy smile.
  • Nostalgia Goons. Your stats are basically inner child, adulting, and boomer. You wander halls of nostalgia, looking for coffee shops and friendly company, trying to retain your memory - which is also your inventory, and your emotions, which when depleted mean you are gone.
  • Goons of Unreality. Reality breaks apart, and your Goons can adventure, warp reality with their will, and visit thought whales. Another nice Tunnel Goons hack. Has some good adventure generators.
  • The Book of Imaginary Beings. Borges. A bestiary for your dreams and nightmares.
  • Adventure Time. Serious and whimsical. I feel this show is a mishmash of things that contradict, that should not fit together, and yet still do somehow. And there's a Pillow Dimension?!?
  • War in the Heavens. All of Nate's stuff is so great but this is really good for strangeness. The art is different than lots of his other stuff, you are Rat Mutant Abominations, and you're on a quest to kill God. The art style has its own tutorial video in there which ROCKS.
  • Psychopomps. Tunnel goons in the hereafter making sure heaven and hell and all the rest keeps working (?). 
  • Aetherway. Cool little planar wandering game, has some good random tables for where you go and who you meet. 
  • Oniria's Slumber. Great Troika hack of people in a city where the dreams leak out into the world, and some folks are there to make sure nothing gets too out of wack. So unlike a lot of Troika hacks/settings, the group as a whole gets a reason to adventure together out of the book (though any given table is free to ignore this!). Has a spread of setting skills, gear, and some locations and NPCs which is nice.
  • Oneironauts and Oneironauts 2. Mix of dream and reality backgrounds suggesting how the worlds are colliding, gear and NPCs. A bit more like standard Troika hacks - and I don't say this as a bad thing! Evocative setting hinted through backgrounds and enemies and gear and spells.
  • Katana ZERO. 
  • This music video. What if we were turning to moths in the city?
  • My Body Is a Cage

Friday, July 16, 2021

Stray Thoughts of God

 I wrote a planescapey dungeon of strange thoughts and gargantuan body-bits of God, which He has been forgetting. He needs the PCs to go through and clear out the Final Boss and then the dungeon will collapse onto itself, and this ruminating thought of God will go away completely. The PCs and some NPCs will be on to the next thought stuck in God's mind.

Much of this I owe to Amen Break and War in the Heavens. Amen Break has the brilliant idea of making dungeon-crawls like this, and tables and guides to doing so. Any good idea I have for the overall conceit comes from that; any bad idea is just me. War in the Heavens is a pocketmod book of collages and a smol awesome solo game. Nate Treme was nice enough to make a video about how he made it, and I've been using that to make Stray Thoughts of God.

Stray Thoughts of God is in that link. It's PWYW. Check it out!

Art by me

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Charlie, a Troika Background, and pull-chit rules for dying of POiSoNNN


A Troika! Background (It's me)

Content Warning: I game-ify my anxiety.

Advanced Skills

  • 2 Running
  • 1 generate surplus value for capitalists
  • 2 Remain Silent
  • 2 Small Creature Friendship
  • 2 Find Humour
  • 1 Entertaining Game Time
  • 1 CharAnxiety
  • -1 Penmanship


  • Notebook 
  • Warped metal pen (as knife)
  • String (1 meter)
  • Silver religious(?) symbol
  • Mask
  • Pamphlet Dungeon Map
  • 1d6 anti-anxiety ampoules in a jar shaped like a beetle

Notes on New Skills!

Remain Silent can be used in lieu of Etiquette, as long as the Charlie remains silent and goes along with the other being. It also can have other uses.

Small Creature Friendship does not charm or control animals, but they will treat the Charlie as a friend or at least a distant uncle. Small animals are up to the size of a large dog, but not a truly massive dog.  Cats and snakes are not included - roll in their respective Mien tables.

Find Humour can both find entertaining things about the situation or locate actual bodily humours.

CharAnxiety can be used to have 1 obscurely appropriate tool for a task in a given session, but sometimes one must fail an Anxiety skill roll to get shit done, especially when carrying out the drudge-work of the Gleaming Capital Lords. It cannot(?) be used when eating anxiety ampoules.




Skill 8, Stamina 4, Init 3, Damage as Knife. 


  1. Distracted
  2. Secretly Angry
  3. Overtly Angry
  4. Disinclined
  5. Sleeping
  6. Playful
You think you know them. You know nothing. They will tolerate us for a time longer. How long, only they know. They abide us, they indulge us. Or not. Moment to moment, it is their choice.



Skill 9, Stamina 4, Init 4, Damage as small beast + potentially POISON

  1. Danger! Noodle!
  2. d_ANGER (noodle)
  3. danger?? Nooooodle!!!
  4. Snoot boop
  5. Sleep
  6. Sunbathe
3-in-6 the snake is poisonous. If so, and if bitten, put 2d6 dice of one color and 1 die of another in a bag. Every 5 minutes at the table (or if the PCs travel for a while), have the player draw a die out of the bag. If they draw the 1 unique colored die, their character dies. Some snakes allow one to put more (or fewer) 'safe' dice in the bag.

Snakes generally only attack if stepped on, or if they feel threatened.  If left alone they will not attack, unless one is the size of a rodent.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Strange Loops, a spark table pocketmod 'adventure' 'generator'

I've been busy and depressed but here's the spark tables I used to put together some point-crawl horror stuff for that system I put together, CESR. You should be able to right-click on the image, click 'view in another tab', and see the pocketmod in its original size and print it from there. HAVE FUN exploding heads and such! There's no way out written into this so think of that before you start.
Strange Loops A4 (Americans noooo)

Strange Loops Letter (Americans Use This) ^^^

Friday, January 22, 2021

Gaining Insight Rather Than Losing Sanity

Insight has a positive ring to it. We can destroy that.

The Wizard of Macke Town is a fantastic blog with a relevant blog post. Bloodborne apparently tracks 'frenzy' and this can, if accrued, cause horrible damage to the player. The wizard adapts this to games with Wisdom scores. 

One gains Frenzy by encountering horrible things ('reading the grimoire deals 1d6 Frenzy damage and teaches you to speak to vermin'), gaining new knowledge of the world when speaking to some monsters. When your Frenzy score and Wisdom score are equal, you take double your Wisdom in HP damage.

Image from Scanners

I would also posit that memorizing a spell should add to Frenzy - say, the spell's level determines how much Frenzy you gain when you memorize it. The spell will squat in your skull for as long as you want - you don't forget it when you sleep, you dream of it. Dream of it watching you. Anyone can memorize any spell they want - they just are in more and more danger of Frenzy making them burst blood vessels, have heart attacks, or have their head explode. 

Now anyone can be a wizard - in plate mail or kevlar or just a comfy pair of joggers.

Another nice bonus is that this doesn't conflate horror with real-world psychological issues. You don't gain so much insight you get depression. You gain so much that your head explodes from the inside as the horrible living ideas try vainly(?) to flower and spore with your dying flesh. Rates of depression and anxiety here in the US have doubled in the last year, thanks to Trump's inability to lead in the face of a global pandemic. And even before this, mental health was considered a huge, yet systemically unaddressed problem. Given this, I prefer a system that doesn't tell you that you have PTSD or anxiety or depression during fun-relax-time. 

I need something far more fantastical and strange.

To this end I have written a very simple character sheet and 'system' for this: CESR, Charlie's Eerie Simple Roleplaying. It owes a lot / steals from The Black Hack, Nate Treme's NOSR, Jared Sinclair's Anti-Sisyphus, and of course The Wizard of Macke Town. I am working through different Silent-Hill-4-esque scenarios of surreal mismatched interior places, dungeon crawls, where one must battle monsters and their own insight. 

Soon there will be more.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Not Dead But Dreaming: Noble Hunt adventure for Acid Death Fantasy, 24?? Supplement for 24XX games

 Despite 2020's efforts I am not yet dead. I am alive. I have dreamed adventures and things. I have published more things on itch.io. I have more things I must do. I am not yet ready to slumber in a grave, my skull embraced by the warm dirt, my eye-sockets full of worms, my brain-meat translated by them to Earth.

Library of Congress + PHOTOMOSH


If you have not bought 2400 yet, you should. It is a fantastic cluster of systems and settings which covers classic cyberpunk, Classic Traveller, RIFTS/time-asplodin, space horror, science-fantasy... lots of things. There are a ton of hacks for it because Jason (the author) put together a great jam and a great 24XX SRD and template pack

Anyway, I wrote some character 'classes' / backgrounds and enemies to go with some of the wackier, more science-fantastical stuff. 24??: Enemies and Allies. There are ant-mecha, there's Entropy Wizards fighting anti-entropy wizards, there's luchadors, there's all kinds of stuff. 

Acid Death Fantasy Adventure: Noble Hunt

Some shit nobles are hunting desert folk. You can hunt them back. And do prophecy-inducing drugs! I took a lot of Dune ideas and jammed them into Acid Death Fantasy, added in a bunch of super-lo-fi 'layout' and, yeah. Noble Hunt. You can explore a titanic skull-cavern and find living memories, you can crawl under razorwire and over worm-traps, you can befriend soldier-conscripts and save them from shitty nobles. 

What's coming

Dang Mork Borg has teased this: CY BORG. I am super down. I am ready. It may be ready in 2021. I cannot wait that long. I have begun to compile a list of Modern/Future Miseries based on, what else, how hard the rich are trying to kill us all for their amusement / bank accounts. Heavily based on a Dread X Collection game, Shatter, which is a fantastic short game about how apocalyptic and horrid cyberpunk could be. Mork Borg has a great open 3rd party license, so I'm going to put some stuff together for it. I'm not trying to steal Cy Borg's thunder because I literally could not, but I want to play some mud-pit-cyberpunk (emphasis on the PUNK) before 2021.